I was really bummed out by the Internet Asifa back in May, and not because I thought it was the end of my iPhone. I found it hard to believe that leaders in a religion that can be progressive in so many ways could be in such denial about not only the rather obvious permanence of the Internet, but of all of its positive uses. I know firsthand - I can literally credit online research with my decision to become completely observant and have an Orthodox conversion. As with any hypothetical situation, I can't be sure if relying solely on the books in the Jewish section at Barnes and Noble would have led me to make the same choice. With over three thousand years to cover, I didn't even know what I didn't know.
Websites like Aish and Jew in the City answered a lot of my questions and showed me the beauty behind mitzvot that are often dismissed in other movements. I have no less than six apps on my phone that allow me to instantly reference the Jewish calendar, locate kosher restaurants, or study Torah whenever I find myself waiting around. And recently, the book Building a Sanctuary in the Heart (I highly recommend it) prescribed placing a note in one's pocket to remind oneself of the the purpose of life. I rarely have pockets, but my phone now buzzes daily with an event alert, asking me if I am serving G-d. It's a great way to stay mindful.
I wish I could discuss all these and more with the Rabbis who only see the Internet for its potential pitfalls. Because Judaism has never been a religion of escaping the physical world to seek the spiritual; rather, we sanctify food, sex, time, money, and yes, technology. A man can look at porn or search for his beshert. A woman can leave anonymous catty comments about celebrities or send emails to make her loved ones smile. It begins and ends with personal choice, not the device. As a people who are to be the light unto the nations, it is a mistake to choose to stay behind in the Dark Ages.